Commentary

Tiger twirl just a bit off in Abu Dhabi

Updated: January 30, 2012, 12:24 PM ET
By Kevin Maguire | ESPN.com

The Tiger twirl.

You know the move. It's the one where after blasting a drive down the center of the fairway or hitting an iron shot with laser-like precision into a green, Woods spins his club like a top on his follow through.

We've seen the Tiger trademark for years (and many of us -- including yours truly -- have tried it out on a few dozen weekend rounds).

Whenever Woods trotted it out, there was no need to cut to the TV camera down the fairway. That golf ball would be sitting in the short grass with a birdie opportunity there for the taking.

Except on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, it wasn't.

On the 14th hole of the final round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the former world No. 1 busted out the twirl only for his 3-wood to trickle into a fairway bunker.

The result? A fourth straight par in a string of eight in a row that ended his day when a birdie would have applied serious pressure on the leaders.

"I just felt I was a touch off,'' said Woods, who was talking about his game in general on Sunday during his 2012 season debut.

Surely those cheering Woods on to break his 26-month official tournament winless streak thought to themselves, 'OK, here comes Tiger. The twirl is here.' But the charge never came.

Woods didn't have a single back-nine birdie when two -- on a nine-hole stretch that he had played in 7 under during the first three rounds -- would have gotten him into a playoff with eventual champion Robert Rock.

Instead, Woods finished tied for third, with Rory McIlroy taking solo second place.

How could Woods tease us with the twirl? He attributed some of his issues to hitting shots longer than he normally had, like 320-yard 3-woods.

Maybe we can chalk it up to playing this tournament for the first time and not knowing the course like the back of his hand. His favorite word of the week was "bite" when trying to keep drives from rolling out into fairway bunkers.

Maybe his game wasn't as crisp as the first three rounds of the tournament portended. Woods said several times that his distance control wasn't exactly on during the tournament, although on numerous occasions he was dialed in better than any time we've seen him in recent years. That speaks to the fact that he is getting extremely close, just not four rounds put together close.

OK, maybe we're nitpicking here, but it's not often Woods shows the world the Tiger twirl and the result isn't exactly what he expected.

Or maybe he still needs a few more reps under Sunday pressure before those back-nine charges become second nature again.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com.

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